THE GOVERNMENT tried to draw a line under a humiliating backbench rebellion over the EU yesterday, claiming it had already begun work on repatriating powers from Brussels back to the UK.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, was left politically wounded on Monday night after 81 of his backbenchers voted for a referendum on the EU in defiance of a three-line whip.
Yesterday, Cameron tried to reassert his authority by sacking two parliamentary aides who joined the rebels. A spokesman said Stewart Jackson and Adam Holloway were “no longer in their posts”.
But the government simultaneously tried to repair relations with disgruntled backbenchers, who feel aggrieved at how Cameron handled the issue.
David Lidington, the Europe minister, told the Commons that work on repatriating powers to the UK “had started”. Michael Gove, the education secretary, outlined what powers the government would try to claw back.
He said: “I think we should take powers back over employment law. I think we should take powers back that affect our capacity to grow. There are some specific regulations which govern whom we can hire, how we can hire and how long they work, which actually hold us back.”
However, he was quickly slapped down by Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem deputy Prime Minister, who said there would be no “smash and grab” repatriation of powers. A government spokesman said Gove had been talking for the Conservative party – not the coalition.
But the Eurosceptics refused to be bowed. Several Tory backbenchers broke cover to say they would continue to press the government on the EU, including George Eustice and David Nuttall.